Not unforgettable - but not bad either

STEVE GEDGE There are the memorable derbies - a certain 2-0 victory at Portman Road on December 21, 2003, for example.Then there are those you'd like to forget, but can't - such as the 5-0 defeat down the road in 1998.


There are the memorable derbies - a certain 2-0 victory at Portman Road on December 21, 2003, for example.

Then there are those you'd like to forget, but can't - such as the 5-0 defeat down the road in 1998.

The 76th instalment in the league series was neither as good nor as bad, but other than adding Dickson Etuhu's name to the roll of honour of derby scorers it's hard to imagine it lingering in the memory for too long.

Given how I wasn't looking forward to yesterday's game at all on the way to Carrow Road, I suppose it'd now be rather ungrateful to grumble at only picking up a point in the end.

Make no mistake, the way the build-up to this game had gone, few could have anticipated anything other than a third straight Ipswich win. It looked as nailed-on a certainty as Sky choosing to screen the first visit of Roy Keane's Sunderland - as they are now formally known - to Old Trafford next season should they go up.

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And yet by 2pm yesterday you did come away from Carrow Road with a slight nagging doubt that the, admittedly injury-hit, Canaries had let a great chance of an unexpected victory slip through their hands.

City were absolutely excellent during the first half-hour. Not only did they get off to a great start, but also such as early goal ensured there would be no repeat of the funereal atmosphere normally to be found at this fixture due to its ludicrous fixed kick-off time.

But the second goal they needed to put the game to bed never came, and once the second half got under way, it was only a matter of time before Ipswich grabbed the equaliser they had been threatening for some time.

And yet, such was the nature of this in-parts-good, in-parts-bad kind of occasion that you can still feel pleased that City did manage to hold on for their sole point without buckling in the closing stages as they did a year ago.

I think I had already prepared myself mentally for defeat by thinking: “Well, a lot of good those three points are going to do Ipswich, and anyway, what can you expect, playing a bunch of kids?”

It took a long time to look up, but I reckon that the last time a game outside the top flight between Norwich and Ipswich counted for so little was possibly the Easter Tuesday meeting at Portman Road in April 1967 when 17th-placed City beat their hosts, third in the table but with no chance of promotion, 2-0.

Derby honours aside, there was a definite edge lacking from yesterday's game, and you'd like to hope that City round their season off by facing two sides in Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday who still have the play-offs to aim for rather than counting down the minutes until they head for the beach.

It's probably just as well the midweek game at Burnley counted for so little. Would Darren Huckerby have been pulled out of the City 16 completely if it had? I have my doubts.

Perhaps we'll never know whether the 'injuries' suffered in Lancashire by Huckerby and Dion Dublin were great examples of Peter Grant kidology, or whether their presence at Carrow Road was due to an extra day's preparation as a result of a Sunday kick-off.

Either way, the lift it gave to the whole ground when the City team was announced was huge. It didn't matter than Robert Earnshaw was well below 100pc, and shouldn't have really started, or that probably Huckerby and Dublin were probably knackered by the whistle - this was a derby in which everyone gave their all.

(It was especially good to see Dublin start - his replacement by an unfit Gary Doherty at Portman Road last November didn't exactly help the cause.)

Okay, in the way that all those 'shake hands on derby day' campaigns used to try to generate a positive outlook, we'll be kind and say that Mark Fotheringham's back injury got to him in the second half, while Jurgen Colin couldn't quite get to grips with being the other side of the halfway line.

But, looking on the bright side, has Andy Hughes ever had a better game for City?

And as for City's No 20 - there have been at least three away games this season when people have purposefully sought me out to, shall we say, make their feelings plain about Dickson Etuhu. When he's good - as was the case yesterday - he's very good, but when he's bad he achieves the seemingly unachievable of being a 6ft 2in player who can vanish into thin air.

Yesterday, the booking plainly took an edge off his game, but it's only now, over the past seven months that he's started in patches to look like a £450,000 signing.

It won't get him into player-of-the-year contention yet, but if he can use the goodwill factor of scoring against Ipswich to his advantage he could yet win over his sternest critics. Unlike, say Jason Jarrett, there's a quality player in there somewhere, he's just taking a lot of time to come to the fore.

And talking about the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy, how's this for a top five on Saturday - 5 Jason Shackell, 4 Chris Martin, 3 Robert Earnshaw, 2 Dion Dublin,1 Darren Huckerby?

t One final thought on Ipswich. It's taken as read that most people around here want to see them lose every game they play, but this Saturday might just prove to be an exception.

Given that most people I've spoken to really want to see Leeds go down, the chances of this happening depend on Jim Magilton's men, at the very least, avoiding defeat at Elland Road on Saturday. Surely they're not going to let everyone down, are they?